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A Fresh Perspective from Nolan Benoit

CAMP DREAM, VT - Nolan Benoit is starting his role as Youth Services Manager for DREAM’s Guided Mentoring program in June. Ahead of his official start, attended this year’s DREAMAPALOOZA event at Camp DREAM in April. He is brand new to DREAM and his experience offers an interesting view into the quality of our mentors and the value that training and events like this offer.

DREAMAPALOOZA was a first time event for DREAM and took place at Camp DREAM. If you have ever attended DREAMStock, an annual series of training and bonding for mentors which has evolved into an online series, this event would have looked similar. Mentors from across Vermont made the trip to our rustic headquarters to partake in spirited workshops. Those workshops were led by some of DREAM’s most experienced veterans and some guest experts who spoke on diversity, equity, inclusion and race, among other topics related to mentoring.

Of course, being new, we wanted Nolan to meet EVERYONE and really get immersed in the DREAM experience, so he started his experience welcoming and registering mentors at the front door. This was a great way to learn some names and connect. “It wasn’t intimidating at all,” Nolan says, expressing how he enjoyed the welcome. After everyone arrived, the attendees were split into three groups and rotated between workshops. The following is an account of Nolan’s experience through a series of questions!

What was the most interesting workshop?

In particular, I think it was the DEI training. It was really well run…it allowed people to see others where they’re at and also to grow. Some children have big emotions and can struggle in traditional settings. The workshop gave me tangible tools to work with all types of kids, and to be able to meet them wherever they are at that moment.

How was it to meet the mentors?

It was cool to meet all of the college volunteers. My hat goes off to them, to step up for communities in need is really important. The group of volunteers was diverse as well, which can be really important, especially coming from Vermont, [where diversity can be hard to find]. Having a variety of backgrounds and experiences amongst the mentors made the DEI training even more powerful.

“Three mentors that came from our new high school program weren’t afraid to speak up and share, which was awesome. The work that Amber and Bruce [Guided Mentoring leaders] have been doing with the kids in the Northeast Kingdom have definitely been meaningful to them. They have been taking what they’re learning and applying it to their mentees, and they feel confident speaking out in front of college mentors.

What was your biggest takeaway?

It feels like DREAM is in the right place, and continually heading in the right direction. It is conscious of trying to learn and grow to better serve the communities. To better support the mentors, for their mentees. It was a great space where there was a lot of growth happening and awareness around that growth.

What are you most excited for in your new position?

Couple things: Getting to know DREAM as an organization a little better. I have question marks to figure out about how things work, and about the communities we serve. I want to get to know all of the people more. Families, mentees, mentors.

I want to build new partnerships with local high schools and organizations to foster positive experiences for our mentees.

Nolan will get the chance to do ALL of this over the next four months. Starting in August, Nolan will work closely with the Guided Mentoring program in Vermont, and during the summer he will support our Summer Enrichment program throughout the Burlington area. DREAM is thrilled to have him on the team, and it sounds like DREAMAPALOOZA was a positive experience for him, and hopefully for everyone who attended! Can’t wait for next year.

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